FF1 Still Has the Best Character Progression

Split image of Omega and Emerald Weapon from Final Fantasy

One of the reasons that people love RPGs is because they take players on a journey. In most RPGs, players typically traverse a fantastic world, grow in power, face great enemies, and get swept into an epic story. Gaining experience and leveling up create a sense of progression and growth for the characters in the game. Some titles try to immerse the player into the protagonist’s shoes and some focus on showing the character’s journey and story separate from the player, but in both scenarios, the player gets to feel connected to the protagonist and watch them progress.


For the majority of the series, Final Fantasy has focused on telling rich, character-driven stories. However, the first Final Fantasy game puts players in the shoes of the Warriors of Light. It is one of the few Final Fantasy games that allows players to create their own character, albeit in a rather basic way. Players get to name every member of their party and choose each character’s class. Not only does this create a deeper connection between the player and the characters, but it also makes the player feel more embroiled in the story and the adventure. It also gives the player a sense of progression and growth as they level up. This is demonstrated perfectly by Final Fantasy‘s Citadel of Trials side-quest.

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The Citadel of Trials Represents a Change for the Party in Final Fantasy I

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The Citadel of Trials, or the Castle of Ordeals as it is often called, is one of the few true side-quests in Final Fantasy I. Players encounter Bahamut, who goes on to become a staple character in Final Fantasy. Bahamut tasks the players with fighting their way through the Castle of Ordeals and retrieving an item. After completing the mission and returning to Bahamut, he rewards the player with a class upgrade. Fighters become Knights, Thieves become Ninjas, Mages become Wizards, etc. Classes are not the only thing that changes, because the party’s sprites also get an upgrade.

The basic starting sprites change and grow. The characters begin to look older, stronger, and more mature. It not only reflects that they have gotten new abilities, but it also shows the journey the characters, and by extension, the players have been on up to the current point. They are no longer the young adventurers who were thrust into a massive ordeal. Each member of the party has matured, aged, and overcome numerous challenges. The player also feels like a part of this journey because they have watched the party’s progression, and in some cases, may have created a version of themselves in the game, which deepens their connection to the character.

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Final Fantasy I Makes Players Feel Like True Warriors of Light

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>A Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster player leaving a town, minimap in the top right corner

In future Final Fantasy games, the focus has been on putting players in control of characters that have their own motives, emotions, desires, and backstories. While many entries in the series still let players change the name of party members, they all come with default names, which means the player will often be less likely to change them.

Final Fantasy I starts players in a large, open fantasy world, and it gives them complete control of the party, characters, and story progression. The rest of the series merely puts players in control of characters progressing through the story at the pace of the developers’ narratives. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and many Final Fantasy games are as amazing as the first. However, the first game truly made players feel like the Warriors of Light, and they got to see the characters and themselves learn, grow, and mature together.

This is exemplified in the Citadel of Trials and its reward, but that feeling flows through the entire experience. It may not be the most advanced or varied Final Fantasy game, but the first game does provide an open adventure that creates a deeper connection between the players and characters than other RPGs or Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy I is one of the few games in the franchise that gives players this level of personal connection, and it is one of the reasons the game is still looked upon fondly today.


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